There is a toll to pay for stopping hearts and starting them again, as the Mets had done so often the night before. Daily survival saps energy, a precious commodity after 154 games.
Yet in Friday night’s 10-5 victory over the Phillies, the haggard Mets leaned on an exhausted bullpen to win despite getting two innings out of their starting pitcher.
Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer, Hansel Robles logged 2 2⁄3 innings of scoreless relief and the Mets squeezed production from every corner of their expanded roster to gain ground in a tight wild-card race.
“I know one thing,” Collins said. “You come to the park these days, you know you’re getting into the game.”
Collins is hardly in the mood to hand out participation ribbons. Necessity prompted the use of 21 players on a night in which Gabriel Ynoa was pulled after yielding two runs in two innings, and the bullpen did not have its two overworked pillars: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.
Yet by the eighth inning, the Mets had enough of a lead to rest shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who had remained in the game after suffering yet another injury. The veteran shortstop has played through a balky left knee all season long. So in another cruel twist, he was stunned in the fifth when he fouled a ball off his right knee, his good knee.
Collins may rest Cabrera on Saturday, though the shortstop isn’t keen on the idea.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Cabrera said.
If anything, the Mets added to the mounting evidence that they are not lacking in fortitude, even if they may not have enough healthy bodies for a serious run in October.
Again, the Mets will take the sins of the previous night into their game Saturday, when fill-in starter Sean Gilmartin will step in as scheduled starter Noah Syndergaard battles strep throat. Collins will do with a bullpen that was forced to soak up seven innings.
But for their troubles, the Mets emerged with a victory to keep pressure on their rivals. The Mets pulled a game ahead of the Giants and 1 1⁄2 games ahead of the Cardinals in the wild-card chase.
For the second straight night, the Phillies’ bullpen crumbled and the Mets took advantage. Conforto hammered a three-run shot, his first homer since Aug. 7, to key a six-run fifth inning that the Mets used to seize control.
“That at-bat really is kind of the epitome of what I’ve been working on, laying off of pitches that are tough for me to hit until I get something that I can do damage with,” he said. “That was a good at-bat for me and a feeling that I can hold on to.”
Conforto had entered play hitting just .208 since returning to the roster Sept. 1. But with Jay Bruce essentially supplanted in rightfield, Conforto could see more time. He is expected to start Saturday.
First baseman Lucas Duda collected a single in his second start since coming off the disabled list. T.J. Rivera and Eric Campbell, a duo who spent much of the summer at Triple-A Las Vegas, each came off the bench to knock in runs.
During the Mets’ fifth-inning uprising, Curtis Granderson blooped an RBI single with the bases loaded. And when Kelly Johnson followed with one of his own, Phillies rightfielder Roman Quinn couldn’t retrieve the ball cleanly, gifting the Mets another run.
With eight games left in the season, it was a reminder of one of the few breaks that the Mets have caught with their postseason fate still in the air. The schedule provides a measure of forgiveness, with the bumbling Phillies on the slate five more times.
But at the end of a 3-hour, 40-minute slog, it was the bullpen that stood tall.
But when Ynoa allowed a pair of runs on four hits in the second inning, Collins wasted no time making a change. When the pitcher’s spot came up with a runner in scoring position, he was pulled.
Logan Verrett allowed a homer to the first batter he saw but stabilized the Mets in his two innings. Josh Smoker followed by allowing a pair of runs, but Erik Goeddel tossed 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings.
In the seventh, Robles slammed the door, getting Cody Asche to bounce into a double play to end a bases-loaded threat. He would finish the game.
“It’s a sense of pride for me to be able to do that,” said Robles, the fifth reliever of the night. “I’m very proud to have been able to help out that way. I hope I get the chance to do that again.”